Sonny Fulks
Sonny Fulks
Managing Editor

Sonny Fulks is a graduate of Ohio State University where he pitched four varsity seasons for the Buckeyes from 1971 through 1974. He furthered his baseball experience as a minor league umpire for seven seasons, working for the Florida State League (A), the Southern League (AA), and the American Association (AAA). He has written for numerous websites, and for the past fourteen years has served as columnist and photo editor for The Gettysburg Magazine, published by the University of Nebraska Press, in Lincoln Nebraska. His interests include history, support for amateur baseball, the outdoors, and he has a music degree from Ohio State University.

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Tate Hess had the best offensive game of his life, and Marion Local’s defense came up big in an exciting Sunday overtime win to hand New Bremen its first conference loss.

Maria Stein, OH – Tate Hess would rather play basketball than talk about it, obviously. And when he was called upon Sunday night for big plays in big moments…the Flyers’ junior wing player delivered, letting his jump shot and a game-high 19 points do his talking in a thrilling 64-59 overtime win over New Bremen.

“Big game…big game,”  he said nervously later, outside the Flyers’ locker room.  “They’re a good team.  Jack (Knapke) was too big to guard sometimes, our rim protector.  And Brady (Ronnebaum) was good, he just fouled out too early.  This puts us in a tie for the MAC lead, so we’ve got to keep winning if we want to come out on top.”

To translate, or provide some back story…Jack Knapke was big, scoring 10 of his 13 points in the second half.  And Brady Ronnebaum was good, scoring 12 points before drawing his fifth foul midway through the third quarter.

But no one was bigger, or better, than Hess’s 19 points, and what he was too humble to say was that the three of them combined to score 44 of Marion’s total of 64 points for the game.

But it didn’t start out like anyone could score, the respective defenses swinging from their heels, blocking shots, altering shots, tipping passes, and scrapping for loose balls.  New Bremen led 12-9 at the end of the first quarter, thanks to some sharpshooting by Nick Alig and Aaron Thieman, whose three-point shooting would eventually earn him team-high honors with 17 points.

Marion’s defense was stout at the outset…Chris Hartings blocks the shot attempt of New Bremen’s Reece Busse.

The second quarter was a re-run of the first – tough, grinding defense, with Brady Ronnebaum’s pair of three-pointers and Hess’s six points the old fashioned way squeezing the Flyers past the Cardinals for a 21-17 halftime lead.

Nothing to write home about, actually…just your average rock ’em, sock ’em MAC game with what felt like three officials sharing one whistle.  More translation:  They let ’em play!

Marion came out in the third quarter and quickly established some offensive momentum…Ronnebaum scored first, then Hess (4), Austin Niekamp (2), Knapke (4) all combined for 12 points to creep out to a 33-22 lead midway through the period.

Then Trevor Bergman hit a critical three-pointer that sparked the Cardinals on a run of their own – a 3 by Bergman, and a pair of 3s by Nick Alig – and by the start of the fourth quarter New Bremen had climbed back to within five points, 33-28.

“We got stops on defense,”  said Bremen coach Cory Stephens, talking about how his team had come off the matt to fight their way back in contention.  “You can’t trade buckets.  If you do you’re still going to get beat.  You’ve got to get stops to make the buckets you get cut into that lead.  And that’s what we did.”

They outscored Marion in the fourth quarter, 20-15, as Bergman hit another 3, Busse hit a three, Thieman scored, Alig scored, and collectively they hit five of six from the line for their twenty points.

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Marion was almost as good…a 3 from Hess, a pair of buckets from Knapke, Peyton Otte and Niekamp scored, and collectively they hit four of five from the line to knot the game at 48-48…and beckoned for overtime!

They were playing for a share of the league lead if Marion won – the outright lead if New Bremen won.  And a packed house showed up to watch it in Marion’s claustrophobic gym, groaning with every missed shot, missed opportunity, and turnover.  The atmosphere was tournament-like, and the overtime period offered that same brand of suspense.

Aaron Thieman’s timely three-point shooting helped wipe out a second half deficit.

Hess hit a three for Marion, as the Flyers went ahead, 52-48.

Thieman answered with a three for New Bremen, cutting the score to 52-51.

Luke Pohlman, a sub off Marion’s bench, playing for Ronnebaum after he fouled out in the third quarter, connected for another three, to push Marion back out to 55-51.

Trevor Bergman hit a pair of free throws to bring New Bremen back to within one…55-54.

Knapke scored for Marion to make it 57-54.

Peyton Otte scored, then hit three free throws to make it 62-57 with 5.6 seconds left.

Bergman answered with free throws to make it 62-59.

And on a desperation foul as time ran out Jadyn Mescher hit two foul shots to close out the Cardinals, 64-59.

All that defense in the first half was just the overture.  The real show started midway through the third quarter when Ronnebaum fouled out, New Bremen came back from eleven down, and proved once again that they’re going to be one of the area’s toughest opponents in the upcoming Division IV tournament.

Some numbers….

Aaron Thieman led the Cardinals with 17 points, Trevor Bergman had 14, Busse had 12, and Alig had 11.  David Homan, as dynamic a player on both ends as anyone in the MAC, finished the game with a quiet 5 points.

Jack be quick…Marion’s Jack Knapke gets surprised by an errant pass in Sunday’s game with New Bremen.

Tate Hess gave his team a huge lift with his 19 points, far above his normal average.  Knapke had 13 and Ronnebaum had his 12, then Otte added 9, Mescher and Niekamp each had 4, and Luke Pohlman, whose three-pointer in overtime seemed to spark the Flyers, finished with 3 points.

“What an atmosphere,”  said Marion coach Kurt Goettemoeller.  “And with the way we’ve played this year we felt we’d earned the opportunity to play in a huge game like this one.  Credit our fans and New Bremen’s fans for showing up on a Sunday night.  It was like a tournament game.”

Twenty four hours earlier Marion had lost a tough one to Spencerville (53-48), so an overtime win over a team previously unbeaten in the league showed Goettemoeller that his team had the kind of toughness to likewise be a dangerous matchup come three weeks and tournament play.

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“The one thing we’ve done all year is come back after a loss and play a really tough opponent the next night,”  said Goettemoeller.  “We did it against Botkins.  We lost to Versailles and had to play Van Wert the next night, and tonight was a similar scenario.  And New Bremen didn’t play last night.  Our team has responded three or four times now in that situation, and that shows a lot of resilience.”

“We are not going to lose this basketball game….!”

Hess’s night was big, but he had a lot of help, and even the obscure contribution from Luke Pohlman, who had that lone three-point shot in overtime, drew praise from his coach.

“He’s a capable kid, and I warned him before the game tonight that he might have to give us some juice on offense, because he can.  He hit that big three in overtime, and that was a HUGE shot…so give him credit.  Some others stepped up, too.  Austin Niekamp also played well late in the game.

“But Tate had a tremendous game for us,”  smiled Goettemoeller.  “He was going to the rim, hit a three, and helped us respond the way we did when our point guard fouled out.  And give New Bremen credit, their kids were tremendous, too.  They’re so hard to play against because they just never quit.  It was a fun, competitive game between two really good teams.”

Marion improves to 13-3, and as Tate Hess proudly claimed, they still hold a share of the conference lead with New Bremen (14-4).  New Bremen is 6-1 in MAC play.  Marion Local is 5-1.

As for talking with the media, his play spoke volumes, even if he had little to say.  Which is fine.

People forget your words pretty quickly.  They’ll be talking about those 19 points all week.

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